Gulf Restoration Network

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Scott Eustis
What is an RCAC? Prince William Sound wants you to know
Blog -
Thursday, 11 August 2011 17:17


 Given the ongoing BP disaster, the ever-present unaccountable leaks from the Ocean Saratoga and other rusting rigs and pipes, the legacy of Oil and Gas destruction upon the Mississippi River Delta, and our future made unlikelier by a warming, rising sea, People of the Gulf demand an independent voice to hold the oil industry accountable.

 What would such a body look like, what would it do, how would it be funded?  Well, here’s just the FAQs (below the jump).

 My favorite is this one.

 Scott Eustis is GRN’s Coastal Wetland Specialist


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Description: Tanker in Port Valdez-PWSRCAC photoIs PWSRCAC an environmental group?
Yes and no. We want to protect the marine environment from oil spills, but we are not an environmental organization in the same sense that Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are. Our board has 19 seats, only one of which is held by a traditional environmental organization. The other seats include representatives for Alaska's tourism industry, various cities, boroughs and unincorporated villages, Alaska Natives, and commercial fishing organizations. The motives of most of these organizations for participating are not primarily environmental, but rather economic and social, a reflection of the enormous damage that a catastrophic oil spill inflicts on the economy, people, and communities of the affected area.

How does PWSRCAC differ from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council?
PWSRCAC’s mission is to promote the environmentally safe operation of the trans-Alaska pipeline’s Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers. The
 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council oversees restoration of the ecosystem injured by the spill through the use of the $900 million civil settlement.

How does PWSRCAC differ from Prince William Soundkeeper?
PWSRCAC’s mission is to promote the environmentally safe operation of the trans-Alaska pipeline’s Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers.
 Prince William Soundkeeper's mission is to protect water quality and the life it sustains in the sound's ecosystem.

Where does the council’s funding come from?
PWSRCAC is funded by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. The council was initially funded at $2 million a year. The funding is renegotiated every three years; current Alyeska funding is approximately $2.8 million a year. Although the council works closely with and is funded by Alyeska, the council is an independent advisory group.

Is PWSRCAC really independent?
Yes. Though we are funded by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., our contract language assures that Alyeska essentially has no control over our activities, as long as we operate within the scope of the rights and duties laid out in the contract. The contract permits us to undertake activities outside the scope if we do not use Alyeska funds. See more about this relationship and our
 contract with Alyeska.

What is OPA 90? 
The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) required Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. to establish and fund a citizens’ advisory group. PWSRCAC is that group. OPA 90 is “an act to establish limitations on liability for damages resulting from oil pollution, to establish a fund for the payment of compensation for such damages, and for other purposes.” It was created in response to the 1989
 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Read more about OPA 90.

What is your stand on opening ANWR to drilling?
We haven't taken a position on whether ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) should be opened to oil development. Our purview is the safety of crude oil transportation operations in Prince William Sound. If oil were found in ANWR, we would be very active in ensuring that the additional crude moving through Prince William Sound was handled safely. The same holds true should a natural gas pipeline be routed through Valdez and product shipped via the sound.

You do oil spill response, right?
Not exactly. Should there be a spill, we would respond, but only to observe, verify, inform, and advise. As an oversight group, we do not have oil spill response equipment.

How can I become involved in PWSRCAC’s work? 
The council actively recruits for new committee volunteers annually. Committees work with staff on projects, study and deliberate current oil transportation issues, and formulate their own advice and recommendations to the full PWSRCAC Board of Directors. The committees provide an avenue for public participation in the council’s work. Please see our
 volunteer information page for details.

What is the speed limit for laden tankers transiting Prince William Sound?
Speed limits vary from 6 knots in Valdez Narrows to 12 knots through the central portion of the sound. Find out more by visiting our
 tanker escort system page.

Are European green crabs good to eat?
 European green crab, a species that is non-indigenous to Alaska and one that has not yet been detected in Prince William Sound, is edible, but since the crabs are small, picking the meat out is tedious.

Why is there still a need for PWSRCAC so many years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill?
In a nutshell, PWSRCAC is an anti-complacency organization. The farther we get from the date of the
 Exxon spill (March 24, 1989), the easier it will be for people to forget the impacts of that event. By monitoring, observing, researching, advising, and educating, PWSRCAC helps keep attention focused on safe oil transportation in the sound.

How do non-indigenous species get into Port Valdez?
One way is from oil tanker
 ballast water. Approximately 86% of the ballast water discharged into Port Valdez originates from the ports of Puget Sound, San Francisco, and Long Beach. The short time (five to ten days) the ballast water is in transit favors the survival of transported non-indigenous species.

Would PWSRCAC have formed if there hadn't been a big oil spill?
Probably not. Almost all citizens' groups have been formed after a big disaster.

Does PWSRCAC monitor the pipeline?
No. Our
 contract with Alyeska doesn't allow us to focus on the pipeline. We can, however, use grant money to undertake projects outside the scope of our contract.

How is the region more prepared now for a large oil spill than it was in 1989?
A number of factors make Prince William Sound safer today than before the
 Exxon Valdez oil spill. These include better equipment that is more readily available around the sound; citizens such as fishermen and emergency personnel trained to respond to a spill; the requirement that tankers carrying oil through the sound must be double hull; a world-class tug escort system; better safety standards within industry; and constant vigilance by PWSRCAC and other organizations and agencies.

What is used to simulate oil in water during an oil spill drill?
Various materials have been tried, though no perfect solution exists yet. Whatever is used must float so it can be tracked and/or recovered. Materials include oranges; foam (i.e. firefighting foam), which requires special permitting; and popcorn, which attracts hungry birds.



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